Posted by: jennajournalism | July 1, 2009

On ‘Doing Well and Doing Good’ by Patterson

The author mentions surveys where people showed their preference for hard news. I think when it comes to being surveyed, people feel they should answer in a particular way, maybe by choosing the smarter answer, which in this case would have been for more hard news rather than soft news.

In general, I think people prefer soft news – the term might make some of you cringe, but you’d be surprised at how much of what we consume actually is soft news. For example, I feel informed about our community reading the boston globe online every day, but much of the news there fits the definition of soft news.

However, during elections, esp. this past presidential election, I bet more people surveyed would have wanted hard news.



  1. Excellent point – this is a problem in many survey-based studies and definitely I think less people would admit to watching soft news than actually do!

  2. I agree.

    During lecture, when Professor Collier asked the class “how many of you prefer soft media versus hard media” two students from the class raised their hands. They did this with hesitation. Many of us looked around the room to see if anyone else was planning on raising their hand before making a decision. Many educational programs or informational programs would fall under the category of both soft media and hard media. I think that if he left the room or if he handed out a survey where our names didn’t have to be included, many more people would admit to watching soft media and/or preferring soft media. When an authority figure is present or when your name is attached to your answer, it is generally harder to make a completely honest decision. Therefore, although this might be a controversial statement, I think that the majority of Americans, even the well educated ones, in general, prefer soft media over hard media. In the future, I think the media will be overtaken by soft news.

  3. I did not raise my hand but I should have because I definitely prefer softer news than hard news. I feel hard news is boring and simple not as “entertaining” as soft news. And I agree with Christine that soft news will take over in the future unless the news writers find a new and clever way to make hard news more appealing. I don’t know how they are going to go about doing this, but in order for hard media to stay afloat it needs to “steps up its game” and become more entertaining to the vast majority and not to those who are truly into watching hard media.

  4. I hope that the future is not just soft news. I think soft news is definitely easier to absorb than hard news. I have found that soft news stories are easier to read and are generally more memorable. I think one of the biggest problems with hard news is that a lot of the time, if you haven’t been following the news, news can be hard to understand. If hard news journalists could find a way to report the news so that anyone can understand every issue discussed regardless of their prior knowledge, more people might be interested following hard news. Soft news can be fun to read, but I think it’s important to have both types of news available.

  5. I agree with jbunn about making hard news more soft-viewer friendly. I think print media is good about providing background information of a story but television is not. Television news programs, especially prime time, do not have the time to go into detail about the major stories due to time restrictions. A newspaper article will lead off with the immediate news and, more often than not, provide a nice summary at the end of the article about the evolution of the story. In order to gain more viewership and make uninformed people feel more comfortable about watching the news, I would propose to a major network to work on a prime time news series that focuses on fewer stories and go into more depth on each one. Although it is not reporting all of the news, it could be a step towards the integration of hard and soft news.

  6. I think there are a number of questions that people feel obligated to answer a specific way because they feel it is the “right” answer. One issue that came up during the 08 presidential election was that voters might say that they feel comfortable voting for a qualified African-American candidate when asked but when it comes time to vote, they will choose the white candidate instead. This phenomenon has been dubbed the Bradley Effect after Tom Bradley who ran for Governor of California. Prior to the election, polls showed Bradley as the winner, but many voters changed their mind during the actual election and he ended losing the race. Although this did not end up occurring in the 08 election, there was speculation that pre-election polls supporting Obama were exaggerating his actual support. It is interesting to consider how media coverage of the election impacted a citizen’s feeling of obligation to say they would vote for an African-American candidate and if the media’s mention of the Bradley effect had any impact on how people actually voted versus how they answered polling questions.

    On a separate note, I also wonder how many people who were polled for the Patterson article had an accurate understanding of hard news. I think it would be relatively simple for a person to assume that stories about crime or poverty on their local news station are hard news when in fact they are dramatized and more accurately defined as soft news. Most people have an understandable desire to watch or listen to news that they feel some how relates to them. For those who do not feel connected to the political world, there is little attraction to news that is strictly policy oriented or news that lacks a human interested component. There needs to be a better balance between informing people through hard news and drawing viewers in with stories that interest the average person.

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